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Jul 11, 2011 07:34 PM

What Do People See in Montreal Bagels?

(This is a serious question and not intended to start acrimony...)

Visited a friend in Montreal recently and he took me for fresh bagels. I grew up in NYC area and those are the bagels (and bialy's) I'm used to and love.

A recent article sort of gave me an explanation of why I like NYC bagels so much: In short, part of it has to do with complexity of tastes you get through fermenting the dough in (old) wood containers.

No offense, but Montreal bagels seem the opposite. Leaving aside the texture (which may just be a matter of habit or perverse pride in getting muscle spasms from chewing a NYC bagel), there just seemed to be one note to the taste of the bagel--i.e., no real complexity.

I realize all the really special treats in my life seems to have the "complexity of flavors" idea in common (to pick a Montreal example--Swartz's smoked meat). Am i missing something with Montreal bagels or is it just a matter of different criteria?

(And clearly there are people in NYC who appreciate them, as there's a "Mile End" bakery in Brooklyn that imports them, and a new bakery nearby that started to make them fresh.)

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  1. It's all in the holes.

    1. I recently tried a St. Viateur bagel while up on Montreal. It doesn't take jaws of steel to chew it. And it's not humongous in size. And I thought it was tastier than a New York bagel. It's everything that's NOT a New York bagel. I always said I was the only New Yorker who disliked NY bagels. (Oh, and, uh...ketchup on my hot dogs too.)

      6 Replies
      1. re: nooyawka

        Which bagel store in Montreal did you try?

        1. re: ios94

          Had it at Chez Cora. They told me they get theirs from St. Viateur.

          1. re: nooyawka

            Well, there's your problem. I, too, find St. Viateur bagels to be pretty bad if more than 30 minutes has elapsed between baking and consumption. Anyone who raves about Montreal bagels is raving about the fact that one can show up at the bagel shop at 3:30am on a Tuesday and get a bagel thats straight out of the wood-fired oven. I agree that once cooled (and especially if served at room temperature), the best NYC bagels beat the best Montreal bagels.

            Come back again soon and go straight to the source (even Fairmont Bagels would be better than your last experience). Before the bagel is even cool enough to touch it has to be attached to cream cheese and shoved in your mouth. If that doesn't do it, you're a lost cause... ; )

            1. re: nooyawka

              Not to mention that you got one at Chez Cora!! It was probably 6 days old!

              1. re: Fintastic

                But he said he liked it. Why are you putting him on trial?

                1. re: SnackHappy

                  Oops! sorry! my bad. I got the names of the OP and nooyawka confused. Apologies all around..

        2. I have difficulty in understanding your kvetch. I admit I have never eaten a NY bagel, but my experience with Toronto bagels (yecch) makes me wonder if perhaps NY bagels come from the same home (plastic, fluffy, no texture, sweet for toast bagels). I love a bagel that makes me stand up and say yes I have teeth and indeed I find complexity in a Montreal bagel. So, to each her own.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. It's very chewy, and substantial. You know you are eating a Montreal bagel when you're chewing one.

              Then there's the taste. Between the honey (or syrup) water, and the wood-fired oven, and the poppy or sesame seeds, the bagel takes on an ephemeral like flavor that is sweet and savory at the same time. And if you pay attention, I swear you can actually taste umami.

              And the best thing about them? You need to smear anything on them to make them taste great. They are fabulous just on their own. Just like a beautiful woman. She doesn't need make-up to look beautiful. She just is.

              7 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                I would agree with the chewy and substantial. Not sure about the other stuff.

                I loved St Viatur bagels, Fairmont not so much but we're talking over 20 years ago. Never had NY bagels so can't compare. Calgary bagels are more like bread shaped like a donut, not even remotely the same.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Curse you! Now i really want a bagel.

                    Any good bagels sold downtown, so i can dash out on my 3pm craving break??

                    1. re: SourberryLily

                      Not that I know of.

                      I would gladly whip out my passport for a trip for Montreal if it wasn't for this pesky thing called a job.

                      Where do you get your bales SourberryLily? I've only been to St Viateur and Fairmount.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I am not religious about my bagel shops, i have a selection of places that i like all equally:
                        St-Viateur, Fairmount, Baubien or Mont-Royal Bagel.

                        I am partial to Mount-Royal Bagel Factory since they are close to where i live and have this absolutely divine cream cheese (i think it said imported from jerusalem, and then they mix their own seasonning in it). I like their bagel boards and their poppy seed bagel.

                      2. re: SourberryLily

                        Real Bagel on Ste-Catherine near Greene, maybe? Not exactly downtown I guess, but it's the closest decent bagel I can think of.

                        Real Bagel
                        4160 Rue Sainte-Catherine W, Westmount, QC H3Z1P4, CA

                        1. re: mainsqueeze

                          Shoot, i'm close to Place des Arts at the other far end of downtown